We all have that friend or uncle who loves cars and who would always tell you the right way to drive. He could be giving you advice on how to take care of your car or even tell you what he thinks you’re doing wrong.
But is everything that this friend or uncle saying true?
Whether you consider yourself a petrolhead, or a casual driver, you likely have a set of beliefs about how you should drive and take care of your car. We debunk some common misconceptions here.
Myth no 1: Premium grade petrol is always better
This is not always true. All you need to do is to use the grade of petrol recommended by the manufacturer for your car model.
Manufacturers will list the requirement in the car manual, as well as on a label usually placed inside the fuel tank flap.
Reserve the premium grade petrol only for high-performance cars like the Audi RS 6 Avant or the Audi R8 with engines that require high-octane petrol in order to run at their peak. Filling up regular cars with 98 octane petrol when it only requires 95 or 92 octane will not increase engine power.
Myth no 2: It is more fuel efficient to leave your engine running when idle
This may have been true back when cars still used carburetors, but with a modern car you use more fuel by leaving your engine running than you would restarting it.
This explains why Audi’s vehicles are fitted with start-stop systems. As a general rule of thumb, you should switch off your engine if you need to stop for more than one minute.
Myth no 3: Engine oil should be changed only at specific mileage intervals.
Do not wait to hit the specified mileage interval for an engine oil change. As oil ages, its ability to lubricate and protect vital engine components is reduced.
For example, while the car manufacturer may recommend an oil change at 10,000km, waiting 18 months to reach the mileage interval means the oil ages and becomes less able to protect the engine. Over time, oil deteriorates due to the accumulation of contaminants such as soot, carbon and acids.
Regular oil replacement is essential in ensuring an engine’s longevity and efficiency, and within reason, the more often the better. A good timeframe to do this is every 6 months, per 5,000km.
Myth no 4: Use your handbrake to get out of a skid
Assuming your car has a conventional handbrake, unless well-practiced you are more likely to get yourself into more trouble than out of it. These handbrakes brake the rear wheels only, causing the car to over-steer violently if pulled-on at high speed.
Many premium brands have now replaced the conventional handbrake with an electronic parking brake which acts on all four wheels and is fully integrated with the anti-lock braking system.
Myth no 5: You don’t need to wear a seat belt if you’re not going fast or far.
This is absolutely false. Fatal accidents may occur at any point in your journey at virtually any speed.
Even if you are driving at a relatively slow speed, a violent impact could result in very serious injuries or even death especially if you are not belted up.
Wearing a seat belt ensures occupants participate in the gradual deceleration of the vehicle as it crumples to absorb energy, thus preventing serious injury as a result of hitting other passengers or parts of the car during a collision. Of course, it also reduces the risk of a passenger being thrown out of the passenger compartment, which is designed as a survival cell.
Myth no 6: When driving, you should keep your hands at the ‘ten-to-two’ position
The ten-to-two position has been the traditional favourite because a firm defined grip on the wheel allows you to intuitively know where the straight-ahead position is without looking down, enabling the driver to correct a skid if need be.
But air bags have changed that premise. During a collision, the bag deploys at a speed of 200km/h, protecting the driver’s head and chest from the steering column. Moving down your hands down slightly to the ‘quarter to three’ position is now recommended, giving the driver the same degree of control with more lateral space for the airbag to deploy into.
The ‘quarter to three’ position (shown above) gives the driver the same degree of control as the ten-to-two position, while leaving enough space in case the airbag is deployed.
Myth no 7: Brake if you encounter a tyre blowout
Braking in the case of a tyre failure will further destabilise the car, as will a sudden change of direction.
The best course of action is to simply lift off the accelerator and let the car slow to a halt gradually, gently countering any tendency of the car to pull in the direction of the failed tyre.
Then look for a safe place to pull over to the shoulder and seek assistance. Few vehicles come with full-sized spare wheels these days, but you may have an emergency spare. Unfortunately a tyre repair kit will not work in this situation.